A Look Back: The Bridges of Rome and Venice

Angie Spitalieri Ianiro, Publisher Angie Spitalieri Ianiro, Publisher

We are sad that we are still unable to travel to Italy. Family vacations have been postponed or cancelled. Relatives planning on visiting family in the States have had to change their plans. Even though we cannot visit Italy right now, we still want to imagine ourselves in the beautiful country. This month’s “A Look Back” features an article printed in July 2014 and written by the late Paul Sciria. Enjoy as Paul takes on a journey through our favorite spots in Italy.

It has been said that a river is the heart of a city and Rome’s heart is the Tiber River, one of the greatest historical rivers in the world. The Eternal City stretches along the banks of the Tiber, crossing it with 13 bridges. The Romans were the world’s first major bridge builders. While it is impossible to determine the exact date and origin of their first bridge, the DNA of the Roman bridge can be found in its building materials, arches, pillars, foundations, and abutments.

Rome is believed to have as many as 900 bridges, including 330 made of stone, 34 made of timber and 54 aqueduct bridges. Perhaps Rome’s most famous bridges are Ponte Eliot-Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Ponte Sisto and Ponte Vittorio Emmanuelle III. When Emperor Elio Adriano (Hadrian) built his monumental tomb, Castel S. Angelo, he decided to give it access via a bridge over the Tiber River decorated with eight columns, each with a statue on top, and splendid railings and peacocks. 

The Ponte S. Angelo is made up of five arches, three smaller, modern ones and one on each bank. The three central arches date back to Roman times. Its stones have been worn down by the millions of pilgrims who have traveled across it on their way to pray at St. Peter’s. It has the distinction of being the most beautiful bridge in Rome. 

The architect responsible for Ponte Sisto is Baccio Pontelli. Made up of four arches, the bridge was inaugurated in 1475 and was the first one built in over a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was once Rome’s equivalent to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio because of its shops and booths which were removed later.

Engineer Ennio De Rossi designed the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele III, which was completed in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy. It has three arches and four decorated groups representing United Italy, Liberty, Loyalty, and Oppression Defeated.

The Ponte Nenni is Rome’s most modern bridge and architect Luigi Moretti designed it. Inaugurated in 1980 and built in reinforced concrete, the bridge can be crossed underground as well as on foot or by bicycle. 

Rome’s bridges, however, cannot compare to the more famous and romantic ones found in Venice, and none is more famous than the Rialto. Many believe that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola as it passes under the Rialto at sunset.

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